Last year was arguably one of the craziest on record for new vehicles, both in terms of emerging technologies and in terms of how brands struggled through the ongoing impacts of Covid-19 and the semiconductor shortage.
It made things occasionally precarious in New Zealand, where brand after brand would report difficulties in securing steady supply of new vehicles. Although registration data early in the year was strong, we were constantly reminded that it was only temporary, and likely to dip.
Only, that dip never really came. Strong sales of new cars continued all the way through the year, with the Motor Industry Association confirming overnight that 2021 was actually the biggest year on record for new-vehicle registrations.
But, which were the most popular new vehicles? Here’s the top 10 in all their glory.
10. Mazda CX-5, 3,128 registrations
It was a fairly quiet year for the eternal, popular Mazda CX-5 in terms of news. A new trim-level, the SP25T, debuted locally. Other than that it was plain sailing for the country’s fourth most popular SUV, with Mazda ending the year fifth overall in terms of brand market share.
An updated CX-5 is just around the corner, although the updates are admittedly very mild. Still, expect the much loved Japanese mid-sizer to clock solid numbers again in 2022.
9. Tesla Model 3, 3,271 registrations
The Tesla Model 3 is the CX-5’s binary opposite. It had a hectic 2021 as Tesla and its outspoken CEO, Elon Musk, continued to make headlines week in, week out. The Model 3 was the country’s best-selling electric vehicle by far, beating the Hyundai Kona EV and MG ZS EV. Its sales were bolstered by the introduction of the Clean Car Discount and a significant price drop.
With the momentum the nameplate had towards the end of the year (it was the best-selling passenger car in September and December), it should be even higher on this list in 2022.
8. Nissan Navara, 3,574 registrations
The Nissan Navar received a handy update in 2021, bringing a new-look face, newly stamped tray and more tech to the country’s fourth most popular pick-up.
Although the update didn’t necessarily bring the Navara closer to the likes of the Ford Ranger and Toyota Hilux, it did help in keeping the model ahead of the newer-underneath Isuzu D-Max and Mazda BT-50.
7. Toyota Corolla, 4,766 registrations
At one point a reliable top-five pick in any year, the Toyota Corolla ended up seventh in 2021, hurt by a the impact of lockdown on local tourism and subsequently the rental fleet, and hurt by supply issues.
Still, it’s encouraging to see these numbers. They certainly prove that the Corolla isn’t just popular ‘because the rental companies buy them’. It was by far the country’s most popular hatchback and ‘traditional’ passenger vehicle.
6. Mitsubishi Triton, 4,963 registrations
Like with the CX-5, the Triton had a quiet year on the update front. In yet another strong year for the three diamonds, the Triton is further away from the leading ute duo than we expected it to be, having challenged for a top three spot overall in previous years.
Although, part of the reason it’s only sixth is because of how well its Mitsubishi cousins performed…
5. Mitsubishi ASX, 5,036 registrations
And here’s exhibit A. The Mitsubishi ASX might be a fairly flawed entry in the compact SUV segment (with a more modern sibling in the Eclipse), but that hasn’t stopped consumers from buying them in droves.
Mitsubishi’s aggressive sales tactics are well known. Connect this to the ASX’s recent visual update and it starts to make sense why the nameplate is a top-five best seller.
4. Toyota RAV4, 6,212 registrations
The Toyota RAV4, on the other hand, needs no real explanation as to why it’s a best-selling vehicle. Pipped by a few hundred registrations, it ended 2021 as the second most popular SUV on the market.
Supply has been a talking point for the RAV4 since the current update launched in 2018, with the hybrid variants in particular proving so popular that some customers had to wait almost a year for certain models. The model is set to get a mild update in 2022, with more tech and a few styling tweaks.
3. Mitsubishi Outlander, 6,506 registrations
And here’s the model that slayed the RAV4. It may be tempting to say that the Mitsubishi Outlander’s success stems from its all-new model, but that’s simply not true. The long-in-the-tooth outgoing Outlander has been a sales hero for the brand thanks to aggressive pricing and value.
Indeed, Mitsubishi is still selling the old Outlander, even with the new model having arrived several months ago. With dealers less likely to be applying as large a discount set on the replacement Outlander, it will be interesting to see whether the model can keep its spot ahead of the RAV4 in 2022.
2. Toyota Hilux, 8,430 registrations
Yup, the Toyota Hilux is once again the bridesmaid on the sales charts. It was a tumultuous year for the nameplate, often spotted yo-yoing up and down the top 10 as Toyota battled supply shortages.
Nevertheless, the Hilux (which received a comprehensive update in 2020) comfortably outsold the third-placed Triton almost two to one. Watch out for some kind of update in 2022, as the much loved model aims to keep up with the country’s best-seller…
1. Ford Ranger, 12,580 registrations
Inevitably, unsurprisingly, the Ford Ranger was once again New Zealand’s most popular vehicle in 2021. Ford seemed to have a more steady stream of new models coming into the country. But, even without supply dramas hobbling others, it’s hard to imagine anything beating the blue-oval pick-up.
A new Ranger is coming in 2022, with a heavily modified platform, new engine options, and buckets more tech. This should see the Ranger’s excellent sales continue, even in the face of the government’s so-called ‘ute tax’, set to be introduced in April to offset the Clean Car Discount.